Today is the big day. It is Christmas Day in 1906 and in 2012. It is time for a feast from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. Some cook books include menus for special days but this one has some for ordinary days. So I’ve selected a number of recipes that I think might be part of Christmas in Berlin 1912 and I’m forcing my family to eat them for our festive meal. The new recipes are M. O.’s recipe for Roast Turkey, Oyster Filling; Hulda Boullee’s for Cooked Turnips; and Mrs. Albert Sach’s for Carrot Pudding.
I started with the fresh 13 pound dressed turkey we’d picked out at a nearby turkey farm. I used to babysit for the various family members years ago so I’ve seen their barns and processing facility. I rinsed and dried the bird before preparing the stuffing — what the contributors to the Berlin Cook Book call filling. I’ve always heard the terms stuffing and dressing but not filling. This seems to have fallen out of favour. I wasn’t sure whether M. O. meant fresh oysters or canned. Fresh oysters were very popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. They were transported live in barrels from the coasts to Berlin Ontario. Holidays are often the time to hear family stories and the oysters reminded my mother of her parents heading off to oyster suppers when she was a child.
I prepared 1 quart (4 cups) of bread crumbs and chopped the canned whole oysters. I melted the butter before adding it along with one large egg and the dried sage. It appears I did something wrong. I think the measurement applies to the bread not the bread crumbs since the mixture resembled sawdust rather than anything to fill a turkey. I added another egg and some more melted butter and ended up with a bit more moisture. I stuffed the turkey with the oyster filling and seasoned the outside. I put it in the preheated 400 degree oven for thirty minutes and then reduced the heat to 325 and covered the turkey. I left it alone for the next few hours.
Once the turkey was in the oven I took a short break but it was soon time to start preparing the Carrot Pudding. I peeled and grated the carrots. I only needed 1 large carrot to reach one cup. I did the same with the potatoes and one cup grated required just one peeled potato. I mixed the grated vegetables with suet. In a separate bowl I mixed the flour, baking soda, and salt and then added the raisins and currants to ensure they were well floured. This is supposed to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the pudding. I mixed the wet and dry ingredients together. It was very tempting to deviate from the original recipe and add some spices but I decided to stay true to it. I can add some extra flavour with my choice of pudding sauce. I didn’t have my pudding basins so I used my mother’s bundt pan well-greased and rigged up a steaming arrangement. I covered the half filled pan and tied it with string to make it easier to remove. Into the water bath it went for the next three hours. I had to top up the water once.
Later in the afternoon I peeled and chopped two turnips. I selected the Cooked
Turnip recipe since turnips for Christmas is a long-standing tradition with one family branch who emigrated from Ireland many generations ago. I used turnips not rutabagas! They are the smaller white fleshed purple topped vegetable.
After the turnip squares were cooked I prepared the sauce. I added a tablespoon of flour to some whipping cream and stirred well. I added some more cream and then gently stirred it into the cooked turnips. As soon as it was close to meal time I heated it to boiling before serving. I also mashed potatoes and boiled some carrots. I made fresh cranberry sauce earlier in the day.
It was time to let the cooked turkey rest before removing the oyster filling and carving the meat. I also made gravy. My mother made another quick dressing since neither of us were sure we’d like the oyster filling. I’d planned on serving a salad too but completely forgot. We’d changed the meal time from lunch to supper just that morning and that’s one thing I forgot to reschedule on my list. After discussion with my family we decided to try foaming sauce with the pudding so that could only be prepared just before serving when I was ready to reveal the carrot pudding. Finally it was time to sit down to our 1906 Christmas Dinner to sample and feast.
The roast turkey and oyster filling recipe was contributed by M.O. who is likely Meda Oberlander the unmarried sister of the minister of St. Peter’s Lutheran church in Berlin. I’ve talked about her many times since she contributed the largest number of recipes. Hulda Boulee also contributed several recipes that I’ve tried. It is Mrs. Albert Sachs who is new to this blog.
As usual the Waterloo Region Generations website and Automated Genealogy site are my research sources. Ironically it is appropriate that I chose to make Mrs. Sach’s pudding. Twenty year old Wilhelmina Denman married twenty-two-year old Albert Sachs on Christmas Day in 1885. Their two sons were born in 1889 and 1892. Wilhelmina was from Listowel and Albert from Hespeler (part of Cambridge today). I find it interesting that their ancestry is German but they are Presbyterians. In 1901 the family live in Berlin Ontario and Albert is a merchant but by the 1911 census they’ve moved to Main Street in Georgetown Ontario where Albert is a hotel keeper, the older son does something unreadable for the town and the younger son is a book keeper for the hotel. They have fourteen guests (lodgers) on census day plus four female servants (two as domestics and two as waitresses).
The turkey was delicious! However, my family of tasters were not keen on the oyster filling. I suspected I wouldn’t like it but it was better than expected although a bit dry. My parents ate it but declared it fishy and that it didn’t belong with turkey. They felt it would go better as a stuffing for salmon. My brother the seafood lover really enjoyed the filling. Clearly we don’t mess with tradition when it comes to turkey stuffing – bread, sage, with maybe onion is the favourite.
The Cooked Turnips met the tradition check mark and were okay. My brother — not a turnip fan — ate the entire serving which gives it high marks. We all ate it but I found the sauce a bit bland. After a digestion break I served the Carrot Pudding with Foaming Sauce. It was a big hit. It’s not overly rich although it is very moist with the suet. Like most Christmas pudding’s a small serving of carrot pudding is plenty. It somehow seems less decadent than most puddings since it contains vegetables (although it is impossible to tell).
ROAST TURKEY, OYSTER FILLING
Select turkey weighing from twelve to fifteen pounds, draw and rinse it out with several waters. Make a dressing of 1 quart stale bread chopped fine. (I run the bread through meat chopper), 1 egg, 2 tablespoons butter, 1 teaspoon sage, 1 pint small oysters or large ones chopped into small pieces. Stuff body and breast with dressing, sew up, rub turkey over with butter, salt and pepper, put in covered roasting pan with about 1 cups boiling water. When done serve with cranberry sauce.
Hulda Boullee, Syracuse, N.Y.
Slice in small squares and cook very tender, turn off water and season with salt, add a little sugar to suit the taste, stir very smoothly 1 heaping teaspoon flour in cream, add more cream before pouring over turnips, mix the cream and flour good, add a little pepper, stir from bottom, and when it comes to a good boil, it is ready to serve.
Mrs. Albert Sachs
1 cup suet, 1 cup grated carrot, 1 cup grated potatoes, 1 cup raisins, 1 cup currants, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon soda, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt. Steam 3 hours in a dish.